Literature Study GuidesThe Lord Of The RingsThe Return Of The King Book 5 Chapter 8 Summary

The Lord of the Rings | Study Guide

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Lord of the Rings | The Return of the King (Book 5, Chapter 8) : The Houses of Healing | Summary



Pippin finds Merry and, seeing he is injured, helps get him to the Houses of Healing where Faramir and Éowyn have also been taken. However, they are all three suffering from a strange malady connected to their close dealings with the Ringwraiths, and cannot be healed—not even by Gandalf. An old woman remarks, "The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king could ever be known." Gandalf realizes Aragorn might just be of some help and goes off to find him. Aragorn has decided he will not claim the kingship until the war is over, and is camping outside its gates. However, he agrees to come secretly to the Houses of Healing where he is able to heal the wounded, even those who are near death. Rumors of a king swirl.


Aragorn's healing abilities are described in much more supernatural and ceremonial terms as he goes about the Houses of Healing than at other times. At Weathertop and after Moria, he crushes athelas in water and uses it to heal wounds. But here, he crushes the leaves in his two hands, then breathes on them, then casts them in the basin of water. The ceremonial quality is reminiscent of some of the ritual surrounding communion, or Eucharist, in the Catholic mass. In addition, Aragorn seems to be able to use his thoughts to reach the sick in the depths of their unconscious minds, calling their names to help them wake up. That he is able to make himself known in this way is also shown in Faramir's words as he wakes: "My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?"

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